Review : Imaad Wasif - The Voidist
PitchforkNearly everything you'll read on Imaad Wasif will lead with something or other about his work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, the New Folk Implosion, Alaska!, what have you, and this one's no exception. Trust that there's a reason for it; not only are Wasif's hired hands steady and limber no matter the situation, but over the course of a couple of solo albums, Wasif hasn't done much to distinguish himself from the impressive company he's kept. With The Voidist, however, Wasif's made a nimble, grandiose album all his own, one that feels like a move towards his own spotlight.
Whereas his texture-heavy previous solo work has often felt a bit shy of things like, er, songs, The Voidist is a relatively grandiose affair, drawing on the widescreen sound of 1990s Radiohead and the more ambitious later Led Zeppelin stuff. But despite its outsizes ambitions, The Voidist feels deeply personal and intensely focused, the epic construction of its tracks tempered by the economy of their arrangements and Wasif's hypnotic, Jeff Buckley-indebted voice. From the swarming brood of tone-setting opener "Redeemer"-- "I got a bad mood that precedes me," Wasif confides, not that it wouldn't be apparent from all the solemn yearning that follows it-- to the ruddy, thunderous closer "Razorlike" (jokin' on Johnny Borrell, is he?), the dynamic, deliberate Voidist contains multitudes.
Though Wasif's come a long way as a songwriter, his axework is still very much at the center of Voidist; the slate grey of his tightly wound tunes colored over by sharp shocks of neon from his guitar. It's easy to picture Wasif on the cover of some gearhead rag, seven-stringer in hand, but Voidist's more than just a fix for tone junkies. The easy ballast of bleary, very Bends-y "Priestess" does a whole swath of Jonny Greenwood acolytes a few better by keeping things simple, while the meandering folk-pop of "The Hand of the Imposter (Is the Promise of My Own)" and "Her Sorcery" feel deceptively complex, revealing more and more over time. Highlights abound, but it's the beyond-"Kashmir" of the back half of "Return to You" that serves as the elliptical Voidist's centerpiece, a slab of shoestring-epic bombast that marks the perfect collusion of Wasif's cosmic craving and newly-honed prosaic prowess. There were times throughout Wasif's prior solo work when it seemed the center couldn't hold, but each tune on Voidist feels intricately mapped out around this highest of high points....full text
DustedmagazineThis being his third solo album, Imaad Wasif is probably tired of being referenced via his touring work with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Folk Implosion and his involvement in the upcoming Where the Wild Things Are soundtrack. So we’ll get that out of the way now, and help people come to grips with his own work here.
From his folky debut through the harder-rocking follow-up to this current album, Wasif seems to have learned a thing about how to play to the crowd, generally in a good way. There are quieter moments, and interludes that hark back to his earlier work, but The Voidist is unafraid to lay it on the line and rock out, earning comparisons to everything from stadium rockers to, yes, the aforementioned bands he’s played with on tour.
Opening and closing strong, the album is well-sequenced. The eastern-tinged melodies of "Redeemer" may feel a bit as if they’re straight out of the psych-rock handbook, but that’s almost beside the point given the strength of the riff and Wasif’s smooth vocals. The changes the song goes through during its second half are also well-handled, and a good example of how even the most straightforward tracks often contain a bit more than they first appear to. "Razorlike," which closes the album and also happens to be the longest song here, moves through ghostly cadences into a forceful beat and thence through thick power chords that dissolve into foggy lyrical visions of empires. Throughout, Wasif’s guitar work -- whether it be chugging riffs, fuzz-wah leads, or gently shimmering notes -- serves as the lynchpin.
The quieter songs are scattered amongst the arena rockers and inevitably won’t receive the same attention as their louder brethren, but the pretty folkiness of "Widow Wing" and "Her Sorcery" deserve it. Wasif’s voice carries tenderness without sappiness, and the guitar work is noteworthy. While these types of folk tunes often feel like
toss-offs, on The Voidist they’re solid partners -- the exception being "Another," which is simply too empty, sandwiched between the intricacy of "Her Sorcery" and the intensity of "Razorlike."...full text
BlogcriticsThe video for "Redeemer," from Imaad Wasif's third solo album The Voidist, pretty much sums up the album: freaky seventies L.A. hippy weirdness.
There are naked women worshipping the sun and doing interpretive dances, superimposed over sun-stained shots of flowers, footage of Wasif meditating, and facepaint. It seems like everyone involved was on either peyote or mushrooms (acid would be too inorganic for this crowd).
It's the kind of scene that might have taken place in a desert outside of L.A. in 1975 with a bunch of musicians from Laurel Canyon. In other words, it's awesome.
Imaad Wasif is probably best known as the touring guitarist of the Yeah Yeah Yeah's. There's not much trace of the YYY's twisted garage rock here, though.
Instead, Wasif goes for witchy and trippy, shifting between the psychedelic rock of "Skulls" and "Priestess" and the quieter psychedelic folk of "Widow Wing" and "Another."
"Fangs" combines them both, starting out as spacey folk before inserting a wickedly fuzzed out guitar solo at the end. The end result is like a slightly more grounded Devendra Banhart with chunkier riffs, or Donovan jamming with Black Sabbath circa 1975.
The Voidist isn't retro, it's from another era. Wasif isn't some hipster in bellbottoms trafficking in irony, he's the real deal. He really means it, man. It's not all batik prints and earth tones, either. Wasif doesn't just channel the groovy seventies; he also captures the darkness of that decade.
This was the time of Jim Jones and Charles Manson, the ten years that kicked off with Altamont and ended with an energy crisis. There is a touch of evil to a song like "Redeemer" or "Our Skulls," and the hippy-dippy lyrics are tempered with lines like "I'm deranged!" All of this anachronism is fine and good, but the most important thing about Wasif is that he has a gorgeous voice and is a solid songwriter. There are hooks all over this album, with Wasif's voice soaring through the choruses.
While the uptempo, electric guitar songs are more immediately engaging, the quieter moments on The Voidist are also rewarding. "Widow Wing" has a gentle beauty, and there is genuine longing in "Return to You," as Wasif sings "Be still my heart!" He even channels "Desolation Row"-era Dylan on "The Hand of the Imposter."...full text
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